A year ago today President Obama signed the Affordable Care for America Act into law, enacting a controversial federal health care reform for millions of Americans. Though many of the provisions have yet to go into effect and despite looming legal challenges, immigrant groups in New York are celebrating its anniversary. Immigrant advocates say the reform’s employer tax credits and federal funding for community health centers have already benefited their communities.
New York Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez, the ranking member of the House Small Business Committee, appeared at a Make The Road New York press event on Monday to reaffirm her support for the law, which has come under attack repeatedly since it was signed.
“Small businesses in New York City are benefiting from the law in many ways. From the tax credit, to the new regulations restricting denial of coverage based on pre-existing conditions, businesses have an easier time affording health care now than they did a year ago,” she said.
Immigrant small business owners at the event spoke about how they desire to purchase affordable health care for their employees. “I believe that this law is a step in the right direction, and I look forward to joining with other businesses to buy health insurance at lower costs,” said Edgar Andrade, owner of Tang’s 99c and Hardware Store in Bushwick.
The federal reform does not mandate small businesses to purchase insurance for their employees, but tax credits for businesses with fewer than 25 employees and average wages of less than $50,000 aim to give them incentives to do so. Down the line, assuming that the law is not repealed, small businesses will also be able to purchase insurance for employees through state exchanges that the Obama administration claims will further reduce insurance costs.
Despite overall support for the law, immigrant advocates say many challenges remain in its implementation–not least overcoming the public’s lack of knowledge about the law. Eunjee Shin, Coordinator of Social Services at Korean Community Services, says that many immigrant small business owners simply do not understand how health reform affects them. “They are unaware that they now qualify for tax credits under the new law. It is important that this information become more accessible to our communities,” she said. Other advocates point out that despite the advantages of the federal health care reform, it still doesn’t cover undocumented immigrants.